Ndiaye carries RU past Monmouth 66-52

Rutgers center Greg Echenique is out for at least a month after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn retina in his left eye, so senior Hamady Ndiaye pushed aside a sore ankle to lead the Scarlet Knights past Monmouth 66-52. He scored 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked eight shots.

If ever Rutgers coach Fred Hill had a teaching tool, it is the opening 10 minutes of the second half of Wednesday's 66-52 victory against Monmouth at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

The effort was sensational, the defense intense, and the result couldn't be more telling.

In the most dominating stretch the Scarlet Knights (6-2) played this season, they held Monmouth without a field goal for more than six minutes and went on a 17-1 run.

What was a close game turned into a pull-away victory of the season, and it came despite the absence of second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Greg Echenique, who is out for at least a month after undergoing surgery earlier in the day to repair a partially torn retina in his left eye.

"All we know is the doctors said the surgery went well and we don't have any more information at this time,'' Hill said. "All we know now is it went well.''

Rutgers believes the condition was pre-existing, and was diagnosed after he visited an eye specialist. But the injury alters the dynamic of the Scarlet Knights.

"It changes a lot because Greg takes up a lot of space, he's smart, his feet are good, his hands are good and he finishes around the basket,'' Rutgers sophomore guard Mike Rosario said. "That's a big loss for us, but we have a lot of bodies on this team that can fill for Greg until he can come back.''

In Echenique's absence, ailing senior center Hamady Ndiaye, who did not practice the last two days because of a sprained right ankle, filled in with a season-highs of 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots in a season-best 29 minutes.

"He knew with Greg out, he had to step up, even though he had a bum ankle,'' Rosario said. "He knew that we needed him.''

Ndiaye also had five offensive rebounds and was tremendously active near the basket, getting to loose balls and scoring on dunks and putbacks.

Also included in his career-high tying eight blocks was a crowd-pleasing three straight rejections on a Monmouth possession with less than two minutes to play.

"I really wasn't too sure about his stamina,'' Hill said. "There were times out there I thought he was dying, but he is a warrior and he kept coming back and coming back and coming back.''

Ndiaye's performance came after a morning in which teammate Jonathan Mitchell didn't even think the 7-footer would be able to play.

"We had a test this morning, and he couldn't even walk to class,'' Mitchell said. "I had to help him get to class, but he was in getting treatment all day.''

Ndiaye said he never considered sitting out, especially with Echenique sidelined.

"I had trouble walking,'' he said. "I guess it's the adrenalin. Like I tell everybody, I'm like a two personality man. When I'm on the court, I don't remember what it is. I just go hard the entire time.''

Rosario also had a big scoring night, pacing Rutgers with a game-high 23 points.

The Scarlet Knights were more fluent on offense but shot a dismal 25.1 percent from the field, it was the defense that turned the game.

During Rutgers' 17-1 run, the Scarlet Knights held Monmouth without a field goal for six minutes, 24 seconds. The Hawks (2-7) were 0 of 8 from the field, and Hill said a defensive switch made a big difference.

He put power forward Austin Johnson at center to defend Travis Taylor, and moved Ndiaye to the power forward spot on defense. Despite the 6-foot-8 Johnson fouling out in 15 minutes, Hill thought the physical presence he brought was crucial.

"I thought (Ndiaye) doing a great job defensively on the four man, and Austin coming in really shutting Taylor down …I thought that changed the game,'' Hill said. "I thought (Johnson) did a great job.''

Taylor, who finished with 20 points, was 6 of 9 from the field in the first half, but 3 of 8 in the second half.

"At halftime we all got on each other, before the coaches came in,'' Mitchell said. "That's what you need sometimes. You don't need the coaches there. We can do it alone. The coaches said our energy and passion were there, but our shots weren't falling.''

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